Moscow`s Metal legends are back! After the triumph of their last full length, "Chimera", as well as a shift in personnel, Aria have returned with a 3 song single, "Colosseum". Featuring long time members Vitaly Dubinin [bass] and Vladimir Holstinin [guitars], the new single introduces new members Artur Berkut on vocals, guitarist Sergey Popov and drummer Maxim Udalov. A fine production, as well as a cool cover [depicting the band`s mascot, Zhorik, dressed as a Roman gladiator smashing through the walls of The Colosseum. The upper walls are composed of Marshall stacks! Neat, huh?] are just icing on the cake, right? The songs are what matter, and Aria score top marks here, as well. From the anthemic title track to the Maiden-esque "Antichrist [orchestral version]" and the pounding, slightly progressive sounding "Deception", there`s not a bum note to be found. The new musicians fit in perfectly, keeping the classic Aria sound intact, and adding their own personal stamp, as well! This should temporarily satisfy all true "Arians" `til their next full length album is unleashed!


Dream Evil-"Dragonslayer"-2002

Face it, folks; Hammerfall is a one-trick pony! "Glory To The Brave" was a breath of fresh air upon it`s release, an affectionate nod to Metal`s better days, despite the obvious Helloween overtones. But subsequent albums have shown the band to be severely limited in terms of song-writing and creativity. Power Metal WITHOUT the power! And they`ve spawned a zillion clones in the process, each worse than the last. That brings us to Dream Evil. The band is the brainchild of guitarist/keyboardist/producer Fredrik Nordstrom. This, coupled with the fact that vocalist Niklas Isfeldt supplied backing vocals on "Glory", and even looking at the title "Dragonslayer", is enough to give you that "uh oh, send in the clones" feeling. But that`s where the similarities end. Dream Evil is everything Hammerfall SHOULD have been! They are superior on all levels; Isfeldt, whose voice brings to mind such vocal greats as Glenn Hughes and Klause Meine, sings circles around Hammerfall`s Joachim Cans [just listen to Cans proclaim the virtues of "True Metal" in his best Geddy Lee pig squeal and tell me you don`t wanna burst out laughing!]; less "True Metal", more true GRIT! Another plus is the high-flying guitar antics of Greek wonderboy Gus G., easily one of the hottest axe slingers on the Metal scene today. Holding down the bottom end is bassist Peter Stalfors and the ever-awesome Snowy Shaw on drums. No slackers in THIS bunch! As expected, the production here is first rate and crystal clear. The songs? Well thought out, finely executed, heavy as HELL! From the opening thunder of "Chasing The Dragon" to the majestic "Save Us", it`s clear that Dream Evil is firing on all eight cylinders! Other choice cuts include my favorite "The Prophecy", the sweet [not sappy!] ballad "Losing You", the rousing "Heavy Metal In The Night" and the bluesy, hard rockin` "H.M.J." [it stands for Heavy Metal Jesus, by the way!] One of the BEST Metal albums of 2002, without a doubt. But can the band maintain the high standards set by this awesome debut? As of this writing [February 2nd 2003], Dream Evil have just released their sophomore album, "Evilized", which I will have in my hot little hands VERY soon. It`s my opinion that this band is in for the long haul; time will tell if this prediction is accurate. But Dream Evil is off to one HELLUVA start! Hammerwho?

Dream Evil

Iron Mask-"Revenge Is My Name"-2002

Fronted by Belgian guitarist Dushan Petrossi, Iron Mask was borne from the ashes of power metal act Magic Kingdom. Their debut album "Revenge Is My Name" features four instrumental tracks and eight neo-classical metal numbers, with a few progressive and hard rock parts. The band's name as well as several songs on the album are based on Alexander Dumas`s classic novel "The Man In The Iron Mask". Ok, upon viewing the liner photos, as well as listening to the music [of course!], it`s pretty safe to say that Dushan`s favorite guitarist is Yngwie Malmsteen. Sometimes it`s a little TOO obvious! "Revenge...." is very reminiscent of early Rising Force, and Dushan nails his hero`s style down to a "T". But unlike the hordes of Yngwie wannabes,the emphasis here is on the songs. Surprisingly, the solos are short `n` sweet, and the tunes are diverse and memorable, something even the mighty Swede himself is only able to do about half the time! In addition to Petrossi, the band consists of vocalist Phil Letawe, bassist Vassili Moltchanov, and keyboardist Yuri Degroote. [several drummers performed on the album] As expected, Dushan`s playing here is top notch, with enough neo classical fire & flash to satisfy the shred heads, but song is king on this album. Some of the stand out tracks include the powerhouse "March For Victory", "The Witch Burner", the breath taking "Alien Pharaoh", the instrumental "Morganas Castle", and "The Wolf And The Beast". While it won`t earn points for originality, "Revenge Is My Name" DOES receive top marks in overall delivery. Most albums in this style tend to be music for musicians; this one is for the casual listener, as well as the Power Metal maven! Your neck will ache and your fingers will bleed trying to keep up with THIS baby! Highly recommended! For more information, as well as soundclips and ordering instructions, click the link below!

Iron Mask At Guitar Nine Records Website

Weapon-X-"Behind These Walls"-2001

One thing that annoys me of late is the notion that America hasn`t a CLUE about "real" is all about! There are, in fact, MANY great Metal bands here on this side of the pond, but they`re mostly an underground phenomena at the moment. This is mostly due to the fact that an entire generation has been brainwashed by Empty-Vee into thinking Korn, Limp Bizkit, and the hordes of Slipknot-heads are "Metal"; kids, they ain`t even MUSIC, much less Metal!! In a country the size of the US, because the scenes are so spread out, most of these fine acts get buried in a stinking pile of demographics and corporate sponsorship. One band that may change the above is Connecticut`s very own Weapon-X! "Behind These Wall", the band`s debut, was released in 2001 and features 13 diverse tracks that straddle the fence between Euro Power Metal, and the more traditional bluesy Hard Rock of Purple, with a pinch of NWOBHM added for spice! The band consists of Dublin-born vocalist Martin OŽBrien, guitarist Vinnie Guarniere, drummer Eric Setreus, and bassist Max Lopez [Max played on the album, but has since departed. Tom Slack is now handling bass duties]. Produced & engineered by N.S "Buck" Brundage [who`s worked with Stevie Ray Vaughn, Al Di Meola, Steve Morse, Fates Warning] and mixed by Grammy winning Phil Magnotti, the album is a professional job from start to finish! Obviously, much care was taken, both in terms of song-writing and the overall structure of the album itself, to insure that "Behind....." would be diverse yet cohesive.... aw hell, what I`m trying to say is this sucka SHREDS!! From the kick ass opening title track to the aptly-titled "Mr Sinister", asa well as the blusey "Down" and the ominous "Thunderstorm", Weapon-X gets top marks all across the board! One of the band`s strengths is their willingness to hold back at times, letting the music breath, adding tension and dynamics and not just playing over the top all the time. Fine examples of this are "Run Through The Rain" and the the barn burner "Hunter Killer", as well as the ballad "Hearts Get Broken", [a song that will DEFINITELY give you flashbacks of Maiden`s "Remember Tomorrow"!], and the haunting "That`s Just You". O`Brien is without a doubt one of the best vocalists in the current underground Metal scene, his rich vocals recalling a time when Hard Rock singers actually SANG! Guarniere`s axe-work through out is first rate; whether it`s thick, catchy riffs, razor sharp solos or subtle inflections, the man delivers in a BIG way! [gotta love those Jacksons!!] And the rhythm section of Lopez and Setreus performs like a well-oiled machine, always "spot on" with the song. Sounds like a can`t-miss combination to me!! Definitely not "Brand-X"! To purchase the CD, go to the band`s home page. Help keep American Metal alive!! [Huge, HUGE thanks to Vinman for the promo kit! You RULE, `bro!]


Shattered Soul-"Suffocate The Lies"-2002

What a difference a couple of years makes! In 2000, I reviewed the S/T debut from Shattered Soul, a five piece death / thrash / black metal band from Pittsburgh, Pa.; although there was obvious potential, the first album showed a band taking their first, tentative steps. Well, 3 albums later, the growth displayed by these guys is amazing! Their latest, a 3 song EP titled "Suffocate The Lies" [which, like all the band`s efforts, was recorded at Mudd Hutt studios and produced by Bill (God) Dodd] is a MAJOR improvement over their first in EVERY way! Shattered Soul consists of Tom Rielly-Vocals, Steve Shansky-Guitars, Rick Nock-Guitars, Bob Giesler-Bass and Rob Cochran-Drums. Seasoned professionals and songwriters, the band have unleashed 3 of the most LETHAL Death/Black Metal tracks I`ve heard in many a moon. Even better is the fact that each song stands apart from the other, a huge stumbling block for most bands mining the same territory. Much care was taken to ensure that the tunes ["Down In Pieces", "Flesh Cage", "The Greed Pit"] were diverse, memorable, and HEAVY!! If there`s going to be an Apocalypse, Shattered Soul should DEFINITELY provide the soundtrack! Absolutely BRUTAL!! More info can be found at the band`s website. [Special thanks to Matt DeMarco for sending me the disc!]

Shattered Soul
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